Masterful Move By Girardi The Genius

NEW YORK —

Fans are creatures of habit, too. A-Rod was given sympathy applause as he stepped to the plate in the first inning. The polite cheers would turn to lusty boos by the bottom of the fourth. Rodriguez gounded out in the first, but he swung right through a 91 mph fastball over the plate for a third strike in the fourth. Unable to check his swing, he struck out again in the sixth.

"In 2009, he was brilliant," Girardi said before the game. "So who's to say he's not going to be brilliant again? I mean, let's not make too much out of two games.

"Physically, he looks fine to me. Mentally, he looks fine to me."

At 10:25, however, he looked even finer to Girardi on the bench. And while more than a few Yankee fans had wanted to get the hot Ibanez into the starting lineup, Girardi said before the game he loved having that late-inning bullet coming off the bench. To be totally honest, however, Girardi inserted Eric Chavez and not Ibanez into the lineup because Chavez had been 3-for-6 lifetime against Miguel Gonzalez.

There had been some good reasons to keep A-Rod hitting third. Let him be the lightning rod. He lives with the pressure. Why throw it all on somebody else? Besides, the big moment in a game can find you anywhere in the lineup, as proven in Game 2 with No. 9 hitter Eduardo Nunez. And, hey, A-Rod did hit .302 out of the three spot this season.

Yet he also has not had a home run in his last 80 at-bats. He has become a singles hitter and if you're not even doing that, well, there also were plenty of reasons Girardi had seen enough of A-Rod.

"You have to make some decisions that are tough decisions," Girardi said.

By 10:25, either by inspiration or exasperation, Girardi was a genius.

By 11:10, Raul Ibanez was a hero.

By 11:11, Girardi was wondering what he'd do with his lineup the rest of October.

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